Andrew Smyth and his namesake Stuart will be in opposing camps in the Boxing Day Kirk Cup final between Annadale and Cookstown at Stormont (3pm) but both men agree that the game should be a post-Christmas cracker.
In the opening Premier League game of the season, the teams shared six goals in a thrilling 3-3 draw at Lough Moss Leisure Centre.
So everything points to another exciting contest, according to Dale director of hockey, Andrew Smyth and Cookstown striker, Stuart.
“It’s means a lot to be in the final. We have great memories of the Kirk Cup and Annadale want to be associated with as many finals as possible.” said Andrew.
“We are developing a new set of players and exposure to a cup final and a decent crowd will help them progress in their hockey careers.
“It also feels like the shot in the arm we have needed recently. Being relegated last year hurt us as did losing players who felt success lay elsewhere for them. A final always helps ease some of that feeling.
“The league game was a cracking game of hockey. Both teams want to play hockey, want to win and have players who can score goals and I don’t remember a dull Annadale versus Cookstown game for many years.”
Smyth paid tribute to his successor in the hands-on role, Irish international, Peter Caruth, who combines coaching the team with his playing duties.
“Peter has brought energy, innovation and excitement to the squad and he is a fantastic hockey coach but I still think we are in third gear although we are trying to do the right things more often than not.” Andrew added.
Smyth’s namesake Stuart agrees that this season’s Kirk Cup final is a hard one to call but he’s keen to add another winner’s medal to his collection.
“It is great to be back playing in the final. We love the Kirk Cup in Cookstown so we’ll be going all out to bring the trophy back to Steelweld Park on Boxing Day.” said the 26-year-old Cookstown forward
“Absence definitely makes the heart grow fonder and our year away from the Kirk Cup really makes this one of the titles we are desperate to win.
“Playing in seven of the last 10 finals meant that the Kirk Cup had almost become a Boxing Day tradition for Cookstown players and supporters, so not being involved last season was very strange.
“There’s no doubt it will be a close match. We’ve had some really humdingers against Annadale over the past few seasons and they are always tightly contested and tense.
“When we played them at Carryduff early in the season they had their top men on the field that day while we were missing a few and I think it would be fair to say we were lucky to get away with a draw.
“We’ve been doing quite well of late. We haven’t perhaps hit top gear but we are still getting a lot of goals and aren’t conceding many so It’s not a bad place to be.
“When you’ve guys like Keith Black, Greg Allen, Mark Crooks and Paul Thompson in your team you’ll always create loads of opportunities.
“So its up to our forwards to put ourselves into positions to convert them and If we can do that I’d back us to bring the trophy back to Cookstown.”
Annadale: Jonny Moore; Andrew McKibbin; Ben Wallace; Peter Bland; Adam McAllister; David Morris; Connor Roberts; David Robb; Fergus Gibson; Patrick Jack; Matthew Crookshanks; Callum Robson; Peter Caruth; Craig Getty; James Cox, Tom Robson, Chris Heath, Owen McElhinney, Rory Capper, Matt McRoberts.
Cookstown: Matthew Rollins, Ryan Millar, Godfrey Irwin, Paul Thompson, Ewan Butler, Scott McCabe, Mark Crooks, Andy McWhirter, Greg Allen, Stuart Smyth, Cole Chambers, Keith Black, Dan Crooks, Mark Rooney, Michael Kerr, Timmy Sloan, Jack Haycock, Josh Anderson, Josh McCabe.